Monetary rewards and bonuses are awesome incentives but if you want to reward your employees with something that speaks louder than these, perhaps you can try acknowledging you have also learned something from them.

The acronym “SNAFU” is a sarcastic expression that means the situation is bad, but that this is a normal state of affairs. It stands for “Situation Normal: All Fucked Up” and is the modern vernacular to describe running into an error or problem that is large and unexpected. [Thanks, Wikipedia!]

Startup SNAFUs happen all the time. The easiest thing to do is to point fingers and blame the problem on someone else. If your pipeline is pathetic, blame the engineers for giving you a poor product. When customers are demanding, blame the sales team for overpromising, and then under-delivering. If the culture is bad, blame the CEO.

SmartUp is experiencing a little SNAFU in our data analytics section. Chairs are on fire. And, I don’t mean that people are going to get fired for this. What I mean is that the team hasn’t been sitting easy and they have been pouring everything they have into finding a solution. I’ve been observing my team at work and I would like to say that I’ve been humbled by their dedication, touched by their commitment, and enriched by their positivity.

An early Christmas dinner with the team and everyone’s significant others

Eunice may be our Head of Customer Success but she has taken on so many responsibilities that she is really our de facto COO. Between the two of us, she has always been the one with “more love and empathy” and thus is the one who handles our customers with what I like to describe as “the patience of Buddha”. I’m a hunter and closing is what keeps me motivated. In my two years working with Eunice, I have learned that I cannot be so “psychotic” and focus only on charming people in the early stages of our relationship and, go all hot and cold on them later. To be more successful, I have to dig deeper and become more human.

Alexandra joined SmartUp in May this year as our junior front-end developer. To be honest, I was afraid we’d not get along because I had no idea what it’s like to work with “tech people”. As it turns out, Alexandra has a sense of humor that’s drier than air-dried beef jerky. She’s a great fit and an incredible team-player. She’s taught me that it’s never too late to make a mid-career change; she was a fashion PR before she taught herself to code. She has a great can-do spirit and her candor is refreshing without being abrasive. I think Alexandra is one of the bravest people I know because coming into a new country, doing something new, joining a company filled with people from a different country … these all take guts. And to see her work so well with the team is heartening and empowering.

Mark joined us last year as an intern. The first time I saw him, I thought the guy looked very serious and, given his height, I was betting he was going to find us all very “lame”. Well, today, Mark is the one who cracks the lame jokes. Whatever Eunice and I can’t handle, Mark takes it all on like a real trooper. He does data analysis, supports our customers with their content, works on content, co-produces our podcast “Humanizing Learning“, and does account management too. Mark taught me what it really means to have a game-face. No matter how much work you put in front of that guy, he always looks unfazed and he never crumbles. That’s how you inspire confidence in people!

Even as we work to solve the issue facing our platform, I want to share that you can’t find a better team to work through a challenge than the one I have now.

If you were to name 3 people in your organization who have taught you something, who would they be?

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